Dubai: Filipino expatriate Josefina Abaya’s life-changing experience with cancer has inspired her and her sister Maya Dulay to form a support group, Blessed, for cancer patients in Dubai.
In 2013, Josefina was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. “During the course of treatment, my sister Jo consumed the limits of her insurance, so sought help through newspapers,” says Dulay.
After the story of her sister was published in a newspaper, someone called them to pledge money to continue the treatment of her sister Jo. It was Lama Riachi, who had battled ovarian cancer.
Riachi is currently the Managing Partner and Creative Director at Mojo, an independent boutique advertising, design and digital agency and art gallery. She is also a chef specialising in the healing powers of raw food.
From then on, Abaya, Dulay and Riachi became the co-founders of the support group for women fighting cancer. Both Riachi and Abaya also use their experience with cancer positively in helping members of the Blessed support group.
For Dulay, the journey of struggle and healing with her sister strengthened her passion for helping others.
From the original three people, Blessed, which has an office in Al Quoz, quickly grew to 165 members, counting caregivers, cancer survivors and many other volunteers as members.
“We have 14 nationalities. We are Dubai-based but the members and support comes from all over the world like Singapore, the UK, the US and India,” says Dulay.
Dulay emphasises that Blessed is not a charity group.
“We are not a charity. Lama is a creative director and she designs T-shirts that we sell to raise funds. She does not want to ask money from people,” explains Dulay.
Riachi’s designs are sold on www.blessed.boutique. The revenue from the clothing line is used to fund the group’s projects and support cancer patients.
Aside from giving financial assistance, Blessed is also dedicated to providing emotional, educational and spiritual support to anyone whose life has been touched by cancer. The group also empowers individuals to make informed healthy lifestyle and nutritional choices.
Dulay, who now works full time with Blessed, remains very close to members and patients alike, and is actively involved in supporting them through their journey.
“Since I’m with the logistics, I visit patients who are confined in hospitals. We have intimate relationships with the members. Our help doesn’t end with financial assistance alone. We are like a family.”